Public Service Commissioner speaks to Rotary Club Tuesday

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Georgia Public Services Commissioner, Tim G. Echols, vented some of his frustration with federal government regulations at Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting.

More specifically he warned of the problems that will occur to the coal powered plants if they have to comply with the EPA’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

“If it goes through we will have to close the coal power plants,” he said. He estimates it would cost a billion dollars to bring a coal-powered plant into compliance. He said Georgia Power is working hard to provide other sources of power, such as nuclear and solar, adding “Georgia is the fastest growing solar state in the country.”

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He also gave a history of the regulatory agency, saying it began as a railroad commission in 1879, organized to keep the monopoly from taking advantage of consumers. “The commission was organized to keep them doing what they are supposed to do,” he explained.

In 1900 the commission was increased to five members to regulate gas, electricity and telecom industries. Each commissioner serves a six-year term and represents one district; however, they are elected by voters from across the entire state. Echols said he is up for re-election in 2016.

The PSC also has the authority to expand gas operations. Echols related how he had purchased a 1999 Honda Civic that operated on natural gas, thinking he was doing a good thing. It is a much cleaner operation. Then he realized how few fueling stations there are.

“If you run out of gas you have to call a tow truck,” he said. “No one is going to bring you a canister of natural gas.” He concluded that it doesn’t work for the ordinary household auto driver, but does work for large companies such as UPS and for forklifts in the big box stores.

He also was upset about the free cell phones given out to people with 250-minute limits per month. He said an audit conducted in 2012 indicated over one million free phones had been handed out and of those 117 thousand people had more than one. So, if they used all the minutes on one phone, they went to the other one, he concluded.

His commission passed a proposal 3 to 2 that the people pay a $5 charge per month on those free phones. He said the commission lost in court on that issue. The comment from the cell phone companies was if this goes through Georgia won’t get their share of cell phones.

His biggest concern with the federal government seemed to be that they should tell the truth about what they are doing and stick to promises made.

He encouraged Rotarians to utilize their unique opportunities for reaching youth in the schools and teach them the Rotary four-way test: “Is it the truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”